Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University women's basketball team moved back into sole possession of first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division standings by rallying for a 47-46 win over visiting Northern Michigan on Saturday (Jan. 12) afternoon inside FSU's Jim Wink Arena.
The Bulldogs, who dropped into a first-place tie with Michigan Tech following a 14-point loss to the Huskies in Big Rapids on Thursday (Jan. 10) night, managed to reclaim the division's top spot with a win over the Wildcats combined with MTU's road setback at Grand Valley State.
The win was the Bulldogs' eighth in the last 10 outings to date this season, including FSU's seventh in its most recent eight games, but it took a full 40 minutes to pull it out.
Northern Michigan jumped out to an 11-point lead midway thru the first half and led much of the way as both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythem. NMU led 23-15 in a low-scoring opening half, but was outscored 32-23 by the Bulldogs over the final 20 minutes.
In the second half, the Wildcats led by as many as nine points twice with the last coming at 33-24 with 13:10 left in the contest. However, FSU used a 8-0 run to pull within 33-32 with 10:08 to go and the Bulldogs finally claimed their first lead of the second half at 36-35 with eight minutes remaining in the game.
From there, the two teams battled back and forth with NMU taking a three-point edge only to see the Bulldogs come back to hold a four-point margin with 1:47 on the clock. A Northern Michigan basket by Lauren Gruber made it a two-point game with 1:13 to play and the wildcats had a chance to tie it up after a missed Bulldog three-pointer before Alyssa Colla failed to convert at the offensive end and FSU sophomore center Hannah Hoffman (Okemos) was fouled with 17 seconds to play.
Hoffman missed the first free throw, but nailed the second to give FSU a 47-44 lead. NMU had a pair of misses at the offensive end on the final possession of the game, but eventually received the ball out of bounds with only five-tenths of a second left. On the in-bounds pass, the Bulldogs left Gruber open under the basket for the two-point try and she scored as time expired with the Wildcats falling a point short.
Ferris State received a lift off the bench from redshirt freshman guard Katie Mavis (St. Joseph) in the second half as she had all 12 of her points after the break. She led the Bulldogs in scoring along with sophomore forward Kara Hess (Grand Rapids/Grandville), who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds in a double-double performance.
Northern Michigan limited FSU sophomore All-America guard Sarah DeShone (Elkhart, Ind./Jimtown) to only seven points in nearly 40 minutes, but she did grab five rebounds with two assists and two steals. Junior forward Ashley Rando (Jackson/Northwest) also scored seven points and had six rebounds to go with two steals.
Overall, Ferris State shot only 34.1% for the game and was two-of-nine (22.2%) beyond the arc in addition to 15-of-20 (75%) at the line. The Wildcats finished shooting 34.0% overall and made eight-of-27 (29.6%) three's, but were only two-of-four (50%) at the charity stripe.
Gruber, Colla, Sarah Miller and Courtney Lemon paced a balanced Northern Michigan attack with 10 points each while Anna Liewen added six points as all 46 of the Wildcats' points came from their starting lineup. FSU held a 14-0 margin in bench production with all 14 coming in the second half, including Mavis' 12 points.
NMU did outrebound FSU 36-32 for the game and grabbed 15 offensive boards to 11 for the Bulldogs, which led to the Wildcats' 11-8 advantage in second chance scoring. They had 15 turnovers to FSU's 14 as the Bulldogs posted a slim 12-9 margin in points off turnovers.
Ferris State finished with nine assists and seven steals along with a single blocked shot in comparison to NMU's eight assists, one steal and one block.
With the win, the Bulldogs improved to 9-4 overall and 8-2 in the conference with a half-game lead over Wyane State and a one-game lead over Michigan Tech and Grand Valley State atop the division. NMU fell to 8-6 overall and 5-5 in league play with its fourth-straight loss to the Bulldogs.
After a four-game homestand, the Bulldogs hit the road for two contests next week. FSU visits Northwood on Thursday, Jan. 17, for an 8 p.m. (ET) league tilt in Midland followed by a trip to Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday, Jan. 19, to face Lake Superior State in a 3 p.m. (ET) conference contest.